Porcine Press – Hogs Moving Into Southeast Colorado?

April 30, 2012

I owe Greg, over at the Hunt Wild Pig blog for catching this one.  It showed up on his blog earlier, so I thought I’d share it here.  I haven’t bothered to check my news feeds in a while, and it’s to my chagrin when the new kid on the block beats me to the draw.  But there ya go… the nature of blogging and the Internet.


For those who’ve been following along, feral hogs aren’t new in Colorado, but they’ve been fairly rare.  At one point, there was a law in the state that prohibited anyone from offering wild hog hunts for a fee, or even charging trespass fees to hunt wild hogs, but from the sound of this article from the Rocky Mountain News (published in this case in the Wyoming website), there’s some question about who, exactly has jurisdiction over feral pigs.

At any rate, the article is worth a read if for no other reason than the writer is fairly entertaining.  It also presents some sides of the discussion that we don’t get to hear too often, including the folks who oppose the State coming in to eradicate the animals before they can spread.  Check it out.

Friday – California Or Bust

April 27, 2012

I’m heading back to the damned city this weekend, and I’m not real thrilled about the prospect.  After a few days out here, even a drive into the Texas town of Uvalde gets my blood pressure up… getting back to Oakland is going to be a sore trial indeed.

Nevertheless, I wanted to make sure and get in one last note for the week.  So here it is.

A couple of people have forwarded some stories to me from recent news, and asked why I didn’t cover them here on the blog.  Let me respond…

The first story is the sad tale of the guy in Florida who mistakenly shot his girlfriend while after a “wounded” hog.  It’s all over the news, but it came into my feeds the day it hit the presses.  After a quick read, I decided there was no constructive point in writing about it.  Why?

Because it gets a little old to hear all the armchair safety experts and paragons of hunting safety chiming in about what an idiot this guy was and how this should never have happened and it was completely unavoidable and he needs to have his guns taken away… etc. To all of those things, I say, “duh.  Big frickin’ duh.”

Look, I imagine there’s not a hunter reading this blog or others like it who doesn’t know better than to shoot at a sound in the bushes.  My money says this guy knew better too.  And he still did it.  Dumb?  Yeah.  Is he remorseful?  Absolutely.  Does that remorse make it better, or call the bullet back?  No.  I don’t put high odds on the future of his relationship either… but that’s a whole different topic.

And that’s the end of the story as far as I’m concerned.

The second story makes me even queasier.  Ted Nugent, the Mouth from Motor City, made news twice in rapid succession.  First, he said some pretty harsh things about President Obama that resulted in an interview with Secret Service agents.  Stupid.  But he’s known for that.  No news there, just folks focusing on Ted Nugent because it makes for great sound bytes.  That’s politics though, and I don’t cover that beat.

But then he pleads guilty to a poaching charge in Alaska.  When he got busted in CA a couple years back for shooting a spike buck, I really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.  But this time makes it pretty clear he has no concept of or respect for wildlife laws.  Maybe he thinks his fame and fortune can buy him out of real trouble?  Maybe he figures it’s so minor that it isn’t worth worry.  Or maybe it doesn’t matter if he loses his hunting license, because on his high fence ranch in Texas, he doesn’t need a license.  Or maybe he’s really just too dense to understand the regulations.  Whatever the case, I just didn’t feel the need to provide more publicity to someone who, at this point, doesn’t deserve it.  I’m only writing about it now in answer to folks who wondered why I didn’t before.

Enough.  Yes, I’m grumpy because I’m leaving Texas again.  Does it show?



Lead Ban Chronicles – The Sad State Of Education About Lead Ammo

April 26, 2012

I’m probably not going to make a lot of friends for this, but I’m laying it out there anyway.  It’s nothing I haven’t said before, but right now I feel like it bears repeating.

I believe that lead bullets, bullet fragments, and shot are killing condors.  Whether it’s the “number one” threat to their survival is debatable,  but I’m convinced that the evidence is clear.  When a condor feeds on a carcass or gutpile and ingests lead, there is a real possibility that the lead will sicken and possibly kill the bird.

I’m not saying that they don’t get lead from other sources too.  In fact, I’m pretty sure they do.  There’s metallic lead all over the landscape in the west, from paint chips on old homesteads and barns, to lead-coated telegraph wire, to tire weights and other micro-trash.  I have little doubt that all of these factor into the mortality rate.  But so do hunters’ bullets.

How was I convinced?  By reading, constantly, since this issue first came to my attention.  There is no shortage of information out there, and if you can sift through it, even a layman can make enough sense of it to see what’s going on.  I also learned by talking to people involved in the research and remediation programs.  While it’s been pretty easy to assign an anti-hunting/anti-gun agenda to the condor recovery folks, the truth is that many of the people on the inside of this thing are actually quite supportive of hunting… and are often hunters themselves.  They don’t want to ban hunting, or guns… and in most cases, they don’t even want to ban lead ammunition.

Call me naive, but I don’t think that’s just lip service.  I believe them, and I believe that they truly just want to see the condor survive.  Beyond that, they want to see hunters voluntarily reduce their negative impacts on other birds, particularly raptors.  And one way to do that is to be more conscientious about the ammunition we use, and in how we dispose of the byproducts of the hunt… the carcass and offal.  See, it’s not all about switching to lead-free ammo.  There are other things we can be doing to minimize the impact of lead ammo.  But few people get to hear that part of the discussion anymore.

The problem is a common one in this age of instantaneous information exchange (the Internet) and extreme polarization of political attitidues.  Add to that the fact that extreme organizations have taken up the “cause”, and with a barrage of misinformation, propaganda, and dogma they’ve painted the situation in an entirely different light.  It became a battle of “us” vs. “them”… hunters and gun  owners against the anti-hunters and anti-gun folks.  The real issue (the survival of the California condor) was soon lost amidst the noise, and voices of reason were drowned under hyperbole, hysteria, and outright lies.

It’s come to the point where the Center for Biological Diversity (an organization I once respected) has gathered a coalition to repeatedly petition the EPA to ban lead bullet components outright.  Of course the problem is that the CBD does not have any evidence to support a federal ban on the basis of environmental or human health risks, despite the fact that their petition makes both claims. Besides the endangered California condor, no other raptor, scavenger, or other species is at large scale risk from the continued use of lead ammunition. Individual birds are dying, which is tragic, but hardly cause for a national ban on something as widely used as lead ammunition.

Each petition is, of course, followed by a lawsuit, and each lawsuit fails.  But every time the situation requires the assignment of Federal Government resources.  This costs money.  It’s a contest of attrition.  (In California, the impending costs of defending lawsuits had more to do with the passage of AB 821 than the smattering of scientific evidence presented to the Commission.)  The CBD has nothing better to do than batter the walls of the EPA indefinitely.  Sooner or later, like Jericho, the walls will probably come down.

The CBD has also become a public relations juggernaut, flooding newspapers, magazines and blogs with “press releases” claiming that lead bullets are responsible for the wholesale destruction of bird populations, from mourning doves and swans to bald eagles.  Despite the fact that the releases are full of misinformation, readers are buying it because they simply don’t know any better.  Non-hunters and hunters alike are suddenly decrying the use of lead, and attacking hunters and shooters who still use this arcane and lethal ammunition… all based on spurious claims that are unquestionably repeated in the media.

And in this corner, the NRA…

The 800 lb. gorilla knows nothing of finesse or subtlety.  In concert with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the NRA has issued release after release to its constituency claiming that the lead ban effort is nothing but an anti-hunting/anti-gun sneak attack and has absolutely no merit.  Rather than attack the CBD’s claims with fact, the organization resorts to the same campaign of misinformation and fear-mongering to carry the message that lead ammo is benign and “traditional”.

People aren’t hearing what they need to hear… especially hunters.

I recently read a letter to the editor in the Ventura County Star, in which the writer attempted to explain that a wind power project was not a threat to condors.  He then made the rhetorical mistake (in my opinion) of comparing the negligible threat of wind farms to the threat from lead ammo.  Right or wrong, he unleashed a firestorm of comments which were, unfortunately, entirely uneducated about the lead ammo issue.  At this time, I really thought people knew a little more about the situation, but I guess I over-estimated… again.

It’s time, past time, for education… not propaganda.  Let the battle continue in Washington, D.C.  I hope right and reason win the day.  But for our immediate needs, it’s really important that we start talking sense about lead ammo, it’s real impacts, and provide people with the information they need to make the personal decisions about what changes they want to make.

Call me stupid, but I honestly believe that most hunters don’t want to incidentally kill birds or animals that they’re not targeting.  None of us wants to poison an eagle, or even a raven.  Of course, statistically, I think most of us are perfectly OK if we never change a thing… especially those of us who aren’t hunting in the condor zones.  The odds of our specific bullet or shot pellets poisoning a raptor are fairly slim.  But the chance is there, and I know a lot of conscientious hunters out there who would like to mitigate that chance.

The problem is, whenever a site shows up to provide that information, such as the Peregrine Fund or Wildlife Studies Institute, they’re immediately lumped in with the anti-hunting/anti-gun organizations and discounted.  Or else, they’re just ignored.  We’ve somehow got to get past this.

I also think educating individuals is good and well, but the truth is that real education needs to start at higher levels.  On the media side, we need to hear voices of reason coming from the movers and shakers in the big magazines, major blogs, and even on the television.  The opportunities abound.  For example, Pig Man has been sponsored by Hornady for a while now, and has used the Hornady GMX bullet quite extensively.  The GMX is lead free, but that fact has seldom been mentioned.  He uses the bullet because it’s effective.  I doubt the lead-free aspect has any bearing at all, but it would still be worth mention.

I know some of the major outdoor media sources are probably a little timid about diving into the politically charged waters, but there’s no need to make it a political issue.  Simply present it as a personal choice with some rationale.  Don’t force it down anyone’s throat.  Or do!  I’d love to see some of the top hunting magazines come out and write a clear article about the lead ammo issue, the real threats as they’re currently understood, and various practices hunters and shooters can take to mitigate those threats.  But all I’ve seen so far either tip-toes around it or regurgitates press releases from the NSSF.

Education is also badly, badly needed at gunshops.  These places are often hotbeds of misinformation and myth anyway, and some of the things I’ve heard about lead free ammo are almost funny… except these folks really believe it.  What’s more, they’re passing this on to customers who are trying to make a good ammo-buying decision.  Nothing is going to stop a gun shop owner or employee from passing along an opinion to a customer.  That is simply a fact.  But if someone could present some non-political information about lead ammo, performance, and other choices that can mitigate lead impact (such as bonded bullets, shotgun slugs, etc.) to these folks, it would go a long way to helping customers make good choices.  An ideal place for a forum like this, by the way, would be the SHOT Show University, which offers several training programs to people in the gun and ammo industry.  But it wouldn’t hurt to take the message to the small, local shops as well.

We need honest conversation now.

Another Great Conversation… But It’s Not Here

April 25, 2012

Sorry not to have a great update from Hillside Manor, or a hot story about the lead ammo ban.  I’ve been sort of involved in a discussion over at Tovar Cerulli’s Mindful Carnivore blog.

As usual, the conversation is exploring the more philosophical side of the hunt, or more precisely, about the kill.  In general, Tovar addresses the argument that it seems wrong for hunters (human) to “prematurely” end the life of their prey.  There’s an inherent assumption that, if not for the human intervention, the animal would have lived a long, full life.  The assumption, of course, completely overlooks the fact that there are many predators besides humans, and that prey animals live in a state of constant danger.  In wild nature, in fact, few prey animals enjoy a long, peaceful life… even if they are never hunted by humans.

At any rate, the conversations get pretty interesting and sometimes involved.  It’s worth checking out…

California Fish And Wildlife Strategic Vision Final Document Released

April 24, 2012

Here’s one I’ve been following, but haven’t had a lot to say about.  It’s largely a bureaucratic thing, in my opinion, but with the passage of AB2376 in 2010, the DFG and F&GC were charged to come up with a strategic vision to address how they will perform in the future.  This includes communicating and working with the various contituencies, enhancing capabilities and effectiveness, and protecting the state’s fish and wildlife resources.

What was somewhat interesting to me about this is that the Strategic Vision Project reached out across the state for participation of a wide array of interests and concerns, and so included various members of the public, as well as elected officials and professionals.  Given the diverse and often conflicting interests in California’s population, I can only imagine this turned into quite the challenge from both a project management perspective and from the point of view of actually achieving concensus.

But they appear to have done it.  To be truthful, I have not thoroughly read all 60 pages of the final document, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s something that CA outdoorsmen should take a little while to read through.  It’s actually not a lengthy document at all, and while it doesn’t set out new laws or regulations, it provides a pretty good picture of what our DFG and F&GC should be doing in the future… and it sets parameters around what our expectations should be.

You can read more about it here.  (Note:  4/24 – Earlier I was able to link to and read the final document, but it appears to be down right now.  You can still find it on this page when the issue is resolved.)


News From Hillside Manor – Nothing New To Report

April 23, 2012

Well, that’s not completely true.

First of all, the turkeys have disappeared.  I heard a gobble way off in the distance the other morning, and that’s been just about it.  I tried a little calling, hoping I could at least get a hen to answer, but it was for naught.

That doesn’t mean the Marauder is sitting idle.  The area is lousy with invasive, eurasian collared doves.  According to the TX regulations, there’s no season and no limit.  I’ll be dining on dove before this week is out.

Speaking of shooting birds, Iggy is coming along great.  I’ve been taking him down to swim in the Nueces river, and after a fairly slow start, he’s really taken to it.  Of course being a black lab in this 90-degree heat, I expect he’s doing it as much for relief as for fun.  I know it felt good when I jumped in with him!

The weekend work was largely about maintenance.  Since I got the fences up, the neighbor’s goats can’t get in.  As a result, the yard and part of the pasture have grown up wild.  With the exception of a buffer zone for the fireflies, I’ve been mowing and trimming to get it back under control.  The elephants and lions no longer have any place to hide, and have evacuated to parts unknown.

A Little Ethics Lesson – Or Something Like That

April 19, 2012

Here’s a little piece about ethics and fair chase… more or less.

If  you’ve never been coon hunting, you’ll just have to go with it on this story.  Jerry Clower was a master storyteller and an all-around funny, funny man.  We need more of his ilk these days, I think.  But since he’s gone, I’m thankful we’ve got YouTube.  When I need to hear a tale told, the Internet delivers!


Lead Ban Chronicles – And Other, Related Topics

April 18, 2012

So I haven’t been particularly vocal about this one, despite some pretty nasty challenges from the anti-hunting/anti-gun folks.

I’ll plead that it’s mostly just that I’ve been so bloody busy lately, but honestly, it’s also because I always have reservations when politicians step into the hunting and shooting arena.  The hidden agendas can so often bite us on the ass.  But overall, The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (H.R. 4089) sounds like a real, positive thing for hunters and recreational shooters.

Here’s the release via the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF):

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry, hailed today’s passage of the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 (H.R. 4089). The bill passed the House with a 274-146 vote.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), the bill combines four legislative priorities that will expand recreational hunting, shooting and fishing opportunities and also reaffirms existing law and heads off determined bureaucratic efforts to deny hunters and shooters from using traditional ammunition. This important legislation is supported by more than 35 national conservation and sportsmen’s groups.

“NSSF thanks Rep. Miller for his exceptional leadership in helping to expand access and opportunities for sportsmen and in protecting and preserving America’s hunting and shooting heritage,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. “We look forward to seeking passage of the bill in the Senate.”

Said Rep. Miller, “I think it is important to recognize the contributions that sportsmen make to protect our nation’s most precious resources. Outdoor activities like hunting and fishing are a central part of our heritage and way of life, but they also help fund a good portion of our conservation efforts. We must remain ever diligent to ensure the rights of sportsmen. Thanks to the members of the sportsmen’s community, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and the House Committee on Natural Resources, H.R. 4089 will be able to address some of the most pressing concerns the outdoors community faces.”

Included in H.R. 4089 is the Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act. The bill amends the Toxic Substances Control Act to clarify the original intent of Congress to exclude traditional ammunition — ammunition containing lead-core components — and fishing tackle from regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

H.R. 4089 includes other key legislative priorities of the sportsmen’s community:

  • The Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act, which requires federal land managers to support and facilitate use and access for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting.
  • The Recreational Shooting Protection Act, which requires National Monument land to be open to access and use for recreational shooting.
  • The Polar Bear Conservation and Fairness Act, which will allow the importation of polar bear parts taken in a hunt in Canada, if legally harvested before certain dates.



While I’m Getting Settled…

April 17, 2012

I dunno.  After spending the weekend driving 34 hours with a 2 hr nap, and then rolling out bright-and-early this morning, I was bound to be a little punchy.

Hunting in this condition?  Notsomuch.

But playing with the guitar and the video camera?  Too punchy to be inhibited, and still wired enough to want to be creative, you never know what might come out.  Stuff like this?

The Kidlet Is Showing Me How It’s Done

April 16, 2012

Some of us spend a lot of time talking about how much we “ought to be” turkey hunting this season.  Others… well, some others just go get it done!

Here’s my brother’s 5 year-old grandson, Damien, and his North Carolina gobbler from this year… and his first ever.  Look at that boy smile!

So now, of course, the pressure’s on.  Can “Uncle Phillip” get off his butt and get a bird on the ground this season?  Heck, can Uncle Phillip get off his butt and attempt to get a bird on the ground?

Well, I certainly intend to… but the road to hell and all that, right?

Talk is cheap.

There is no try, there is only do.

I get it!  Alright!  No more putting it off.  No excuses about my gun malfunctioning.  I’m gonna do it!  I’m gonna go turkey hunting…

But I don’t think anything I can shoot this year is going to be nearly as rewarding as this bird was to Damien.

Congrats, boy!  You done good!

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